Question from our AskMark Page:
I see verses referring to the "character of God", "the nature of God". Would you explain what these mean?
In fact, it is the most important question for a person to ask about God, and answer correctly, based on what He has said and not on human logic. Everything depends on whether God is trustworthy, whether He tells the truth. Our eternal lives depend on His truthfulness; His trustworthiness. So, our eternal lives depend on understanding His character; His nature.
In traditional theology, God’s character or nature, is generally defined as:
-Omniscient- “all knowing”
-Omnipotent- “all powerful”
-Omnipresent- “everywhere at all times”
Although these academic words help us understand certain things about Him and what He can do, they fall short of really helping us understand Him, how He feels, how He longs to relate to us, and how He wants us to relate to Him.
Someone’s character or nature is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” In modern language we would say, “What is a person ‘like’?” Once we know what a person is truly “like,” we can be assured of how they will act in a given situation. Of course, people are not perfect, so they don’t always act out of their values. But God is perfect and does always act in accordance with His nature; His character. He cannot do otherwise; He cannot change Himself.
In all my books, I make a major issue of the eternal importance of correctly answering two questions that must be asked together to understand God:
-What is God really like?
-How does He really feel about me?
By answering these two questions correctly, we know if we can trust, or believe, or place our complete hope in God. And everything depends on faith, trust, hope, and belief.
Throughout the Bible, people, inspired by the Spirit and their experiences, attempted to define what God is really like. David wrote things like, “You, alone, are true and all Your choices are right…Your love is everlasting; therefore, we do not lose hope…I have never seen the righteous forsaken.” Jeremiah wrote, “Before I was ever born, You knew me…Your mercies are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness, oh God. Therefore, we do not lose hope.”
What Does God Say About Himself?
But the most important answer to the question, “What is God really like,” comes from God, Himself. Here is the primary place in the Old Testament where God literally describes Himself-
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Ex 34:5-7 NIV (Ex 20 and Deut 5 end this verse with “of those who hate Me.”)
So, God describes Himself as:
-slow to anger…
-abounding in love…
-abounding in faithfulness…
-maintaining love to thousands…
-forgiving all manner of sin!
This is where God BEGINS in describing Himself. (Shouldn’t we start where He starts?)
But because God is both completely loving and completely just, both at the same time, He then addresses His justice and says He cannot let “the guilty go unpunished.”
But who are the guilty?
-Since God will forgive ALL manner of sin, then the guilty are only those who refuse to believe He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, abounding in faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and…forgiving all manner of sin! In Ex 20 and Deut 5, He further says the guilty are “those who hate Me!”
Jesus Came To Reveal The Invisible, Eternal God To Us!
If we want to know the character or nature of God, we simply look at Jesus. Why? Because He is the exact representation, the precise human image of the Father!
- “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” Heb 1:3 NIV
- “He is the image of the invisible God…” Col 1:15 NIV
- “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…” Col 2:9 NIV
The invisible God can only be fully seen in Jesus.
-Sitting around the table at the “last supper,” Jesus told the disciples that He had to leave them and why it was good for them that He go. They were horrified. They couldn’t even imagine continuing the “mission” without the One who knew God like they never could. Thomas was completely baffled.
"No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!" John 14:5-7 NLT
Finally, when He wouldn’t relent, Philip said, “Then show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Philip was clearly saying that if they could know the Father the way Jesus knew the Father, then they would be able to continue the work after Jesus left. But they had completely missed the plan. So, Jesus spoke clearly.
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” John 14:8-11 NLT
-So, here’s the plan. God is fully revealed by looking at Jesus.
All of this adds up to a simple explanation of God’s eternal character.
“For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Ps 100:5 NASB
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 "There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” John 3:16-18 NLT
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” 1 John 4:15-16 NIV
He never changes and He is fully revealed in Jesus!
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.